Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Columns

April 1, 2014

TOM LoBIANCO: Pinpointing governor's influence a tough task

Legislative session quite a slog for Pence

When Gov. Mike Pence signed the new preschool pilot program into law last week, he heaped praise on a bipartisan group of lawmakers who gathered around him at the DayStar Childcare Ministry in Indianapolis.

The new law creates a pilot program to pay for roughly 2,500 low-income children to attend preschool. It’s far short of the 40,000 children Pence originally hoped would be covered by the program, but still quite a bit more than what seemed possible in the middle of the session: a mere study of the issue over the coming year.

The 2014 session was hardly a banner event for Pence — many of his top priorities, including preschool, were either watered down or failed outright — but legislative leaders delivered just enough on the governor’s top priorities to declare victory at the end of their 10-week meeting this year.

Moving forward, the question of Pence’s influence will remain important as his supporters continue floating his name for a potential White House run.

Pence’s term has been a far cry from the years with former Gov. Mitch Daniels, whose policy proposals were often matched in boldness by his strong-arm political tactics, which included recruiting candidates to run for office against incumbents with whom he clashed. Daniels hardly won every agenda item he sought from lawmakers, but he typically started each session with clear goals, and lawmakers were able to pinpoint his influence in the Statehouse — good, bad or otherwise.

But Pence’s touch has been far lighter. It has alternately been described as deferential and respectful to the legislative process (drawing on his 12 years as a federal lawmaker) or almost nonexistent. But legislative Republicans still rally to Pence’s side.

Talking the day after the 2014 session ended, House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, spoke highly of the governor’s involvement.

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